By Robert McMillan
IDG News Service
August 11, 2006
With Microsoft Corp.'s Office suite now being targeted by hackers,
researchers at the French Ministry of Defense say users of the
OpenOffice.org software may be at even greater risk from computer
"The general security of OpenOffice is insufficient," the researchers
wrote in a paper entitled "In-depth analysis of the viral threats with
"This suite is up to now still vulnerable to many potential malware
attacks," they wrote.
The paper describes four proof-of-concept viruses that illustrate how
maliciously encoded macros and templates could be created to
compromise systems running the open-source software. "The viral hazard
attached to OpenOffice.org is at least as high as that for the
Microsoft Office suite, and even higher when considering some ...
aspects," they wrote.
The report was written by researchers at the French Ministry of
Defense's Signal Corps and is set to be published in the Journal in
Computer Virology, a Paris-based academic journal for computer
A number of the problems described in the report have to do with the
basic design of the software. For example, OpenOffice.org does not
perform adequate security checks on the software it runs, the
researcher said. And because of the extreme flexibility of the free
office suite, there are many ways for writers to create malicious
macros, the researchers found.
The OpenOffice.org team has already fixed a software bug discovered by
the French researchers, and the two groups are in discussions about
how to improve the overall security of the software, said Louis
Suarez-Potts, an OpenOffice.org community manager.
"The one real flaw in the programming logic has been fixed,"
Suarez-Potts said. "The others are theoretical."
OpenOffice.org has patched a number of vulnerabilities in the past few
weeks, and Suarez-Potts says users should upgrade to the latest
These latest bugs show that the open-source project has some security
work ahead of it, said Russ Cooper, a senior information security
analyst at Cybertrust. "If these types of vulnerabilities had been
discovered in Microsoft Office, it would be front-page news," he said.
"Whoever did the security for OpenOffice has totally ignored what
Microsoft has gone through with the security of their own Office
Attackers have exploited a number of bugs in Microsoft's Office
applications of late, sending maliciously encoded Word, Excel and
PowerPoint documents via e-mail to a small number of victims in
extremely targeted attacks. On Tuesday, Microsoft patched the latest
such flaws, which related to PowerPoint.
Signal Corps Researcher Eric Filiol has also discussed some of the
team's OpenOffice.org findings during a conference presentation.
Filiol declined to be interviewed for this story.
(Peter Sayer in Paris contributed to this report.)
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